Alabama Football: Why Julio Jones was Alabama’s Most Important Recruit

ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 01: Julio Jones
ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 01: Julio Jones /

Alabama football is in an unprecedented dynasty. Alabama football coach, Nick Saban’s vision of Alabama football dominance, started with one player: Julio Jones.

On Alabama football’s barbershop series Bama Cuts, Nick Saban recalls how terrified he was if he could not land the show’s central figure, Julio Jones. The six-time national championship winning coach remembered signing four wide receivers in 2008 and was not sure if the subtle receiver wanted the competition.

The four receivers were Chris Jackson, who transferred the following year to play for Georgia Tech.

BJ Scott moved on to South Alabama after being switched to defensive back.

Melvin Ray and Destin Hood decided to enter the MLB amateur draft. Ray, played minor league baseball for the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. Next, Ray returned to college football in 2012 playing four seasons with the Auburn Tigers.

Currently, Hood plays for the Texas Rangers’ AAA ballclub, Round Rock Express. His best season to date is 2016 when he bashed 15 homers and drove in 80 runs with AAA New Orleans.

Fortunately for all Alabama fans, Julio was not scared of battling for his position on the team. Since joining the Tide, Jones has dominated the opposition in college and the NFL.

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Dynasty Builder

The six-foot-three, 220 pound Julio Jones was the crown jewel of the famed 2008 Alabama recruiting class that included Heisman winner Mark Ingram, Mark Barron, Marcel Dareus and Dont’a Hightower.

The Foley native was the number one wide receiver in the country that was considering reigning Big 12 champion Oklahoma. Hence, if he decided to go to the Sooners, he would have been the beneficiary of passes thrown from Heisman winner Sam Bradford.

By signing with Alabama, Jones helped second-year Alabama head coach Saban gain the momentum needed to form the proverbial fence around the state of Alabama. In 2007, the state had several big-time recruits such as Mark Barron, Marcell Dareus, and Courtney Upshaw plus Julio Jones.

Auburn, Florida State, LSU, and Florida poached the state of Alabama for its best high school players. Therefore, a big reason behind the pilferage was that Alabama was no longer relevant in college football after going through four head coaches in the past ten years.

Alabama Megastar Receiver

For a school that does not have a history of big-time receivers, Julio broke the mold. He fit the description of Saban’s prototype receiver as he towered over defensive backs, possessed blazing speed and exhibited Charmin soft hands.

His freshman year, Julio did not disappoint considering he played in a run-oriented offense. Performed as advertised with 58 catches for 924 yards and four touchdowns. During his sophomore season, his numbers dropped with 43 receptions for 596 yards. In 2010, Julio caught 78 passes for 1,133 yards and seven touchdowns. Jones left Alabama as a three-time All-SEC wide receiver. Thus, he exited Alabama second in career receptions (179) and yards (2,653) behind DJ Hall.

Despite all his accolades at Alabama, he never became an All-American. Nevertheless, the Atlanta Falcons traded five draft picks to the Cleveland Browns for the rights to draft this star-studded receiver.

Considered one of the top two receivers in the NFL, Julio was named an All-Pro two times (2015 and 2016). Further, in 2015, he led the league in receptions (136) and yards receiving (1,871).  His 1,871 yards receiving are second-most in NFL history. The five-time Pro Bowler led the Falcons to a Super Bowl berth in 2016 losing to the New England Patriots 34-28 in overtime.  The dominant receiver even once caught 12 passes for 300 yards and one score against the Carolina Panthers in 2016.

alabama football
(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) /

Much Needed Credibility

Above all, the 2008 recruiting class jumpstarted this incredible journey for Alabama football. They gave the nomadic Saban credibility at a time when his team was coming off a 7-6 season, and fans believed he would depart for greener pastures in a few years.

However, Julio exemplifies everything that Saban represents. A mild-mannered, gritty, and determined worker willing to put individual contributions aside for the betterment of the team. A selfless player, he was the best blocking wideout on the Crimson Tide.

Jones had the opportunity to go to Norman and play with Bradford. Admittedly, he would have been an All American and possibly a Heisman candidate. Instead, he chose to stay home and outwork his competition.

Julio’s instant success allowed star receivers, Amari Cooper and Calvin Ridley, to even consider Alabama.

Arguably, Julio Jones is Alabama’s most recognizable football player since 2008 despite the two Heisman winners.

Next: Crimson Tide All-Time Best Receivers

All Crimson Tide players that have set foot on campus after 2008 should recognize this class for setting the foundation for the exceptional run of championships. Finally, Saban should admit that Jones was his most important recruit in upstarting the dynasty.